The Albright-Knox has announced news on the pending construction phase of the AK360 Campus Development and Expansion Project. The highly anticipated development will change the face of the AK’s grounds yet again, in myriad capacities. It was also announced that there would be some offsite developments in the works, as well as updates on the Design Development phase.
Among new additions proposed is a fantastic light canopy of glass and mirrors that will hang over the courtyard of the 1962 Building. The work of art covering the courtyard – Common Sky – is the creation of the firm Studio Other Spaces, which was founded by Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson and architect Sebastian Behmann. In the center of the massive work is a funnel that will collect natural elements such as rain and snow. The work of art does not take away from the historic sightlines of the building, when viewed from the grounds. It does offer visuals of complex, kaleidoscopic reflections when viewed from interior of the new “Town Square”.
Eliasson says: “Common sky is an expansive sculpture through which visitors experience the constant motion of the surrounding natural environment. The changing light conditions, the passing clouds, the progression of the sun over the course of the day, the flow of the seasons all resonate within this warm, welcoming space. I see museums as places of engagement, where visitors do not escape from the world but rather can examine the world—and themselves—in even more detail, and Common skyamplifies this type of engagement.”
Behmann says: “The artwork’s structure emerges asymmetrically from the courtyard to form a striking contrast with the symmetrical Bunshaft building. Common sky is an instrument that uses transparent glass and mirror reflections to modulate visitors’ view into the trees of the park while generating an ever-changing shadow pattern on the ground; it forms a new public space that will host shared experiences of the natural environment within its sheltering embrace.”
“The AK360 Campus Development and Expansion Project is a manifestation of Buffalo’s accelerating momentum and bright future,” said Janne Sirén, Peggy Pierce Elfvin Director of the Albright-Knox. “We are committed to making our new campus inspiring and welcoming to all, with 30,000 square feet of new exhibition space, a wing dedicated to education and community engagement, and state-of-the-art visitor amenities. Shohei Shigematsu’s brilliant design (OMA) and Olafur Eliasson and Sebastian Behmann’s masterpiece above our new Indoor Town Square promise to transform the Buffalo AKG Art Museum into a national landmark and a globally recognized destination.”
As for latest news on the OMA design, which is the freestanding north building, 50% design development has been reached, with a number of refinements in place.
Updates to the north building include: Optimizing and consolidating gallery spaces to establish a more compact, efficient footprint. Altogether, the new building will allow for the utilization of 30,000 square feet, which will allow for more shows and exhibits at the gallery. That means that a significant percentage of artwork will be viewable, compared to what can be showcased at any one time currently.
Shohei Shigematsu says: “Our goal was to enhance the clarity of the galleries and provide a diversity of experiences with art, landscape and the historic context. We are excited to collaborate with Studio Other Spaces whose artwork will create a covered public courtyard and an additional focal point within the museum campus.”
In addition to adding to Buffalo’s remarkable architectural legacy, the museum aspires to improve its campus by:
- Building an underground parking structure and transforming the surface parking lot into a vibrant green landscape and gathering place, a green plaza
- Opening a route through the museum from Elmwood Avenue to Olmsted’s Delaware Park, adding a new point of entry and exit on the east façade of the museum’s 1962 Building
- Covering the 1962 Building’s open-air Sculpture Garden to create a new space for year-round civic engagement, open free of charge to the community during museum and program hours
- Creating a new education wing in the lower level of the 1962 Building
- Constructing a signature scenic bridge that connects the new building with the 1905 Building
Construction begins in late 2019.
The good news doesn’t stop there. It has also been announced that two off-site projects will commence. Albright-Knox Northland, a new project space, will be located at 612 Northland Avenue, coinciding with the nearby Northland Workforce Training Center. The Northland Corridor, being developed by the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation, will be the recipient of a 15,000-square-foot performance and art space. This project is part of the AK’s new Public Art Initiative.
Mayor Byron W. Brown stated, “There’s no doubt that the revolutionary AK360 Campus Development and Expansion Project will have a monumental impact on our community, and I thank museum visitors, in advance, for their patience as we continue to enhance our city’s reputation as a world-class arts and cultural destination. I also applaud Dr. Janne Sirén, the Albright-Knox Board, staff, and volunteers for the innovative ways they plan to continue to present outstanding exhibitions and educational programs during this major construction project, while supporting a new and exciting venue for art installations at 612 Northland. The arts are a cornerstone of Buffalo’s cultural, educational, and economic vitality, and AK360 will help establish an even stronger economic foundation for the next century, creating opportunity and access to residents in every section of our city.”
“Our Strategic Plan serves as a guide as we honor the history and legacy of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and move towards our future as the new Buffalo AKG Art Museum, realizing our vision of a twenty-first century museum that connects art, ideas, and people,” said Albright-Knox Board President Alice Jacobs. “As construction on one of the largest cultural projects in Buffalo’s history is poised to begin, the expansion of the museum’s work throughout Western New York will strengthen and reinforce our connections with the diverse communities we serve while introducing new audiences to the transformative power of art. On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, we could not be more excited to share the initiatives that are making this vision a reality.”
Finally, the AK announced plans to build a new Art Truck that would travel the city, bringing art to the masses. The offerings will include art activities, projects, and classes, available to all age groups. The Art Truck will launch spring of 2020.
“The news today from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery is exciting and underscores this world-class institution’s commitment to Erie County,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “As AK360 transforms the museum’s campus with a signature artwork and bold new public spaces, the museum is reaching even further into the community with the development of Albright-Knox Northland and the deployment of an Art Truck that will bring art and activities to enthusiasts of all ages, countywide. The hugely popular Public Art Initiative will also be expanded and we look forward to placing even more thought-provoking and conversation stimulating artwork around Erie County.”
Fundraising for AK360 continues to forge ahead, with approximately $131 million raised to date, leaving a target of approximately $29 million left to raise. As was announced in January, the museum met Jeffrey Gundlach’s second, $10 million matching challenge. Through his two matching challenges, Mr. Gundlach has given $52.5 million to AK360. Far beyond dollars, however, he has given our community the tools to achieve a bold vision for the future.